The Trial of Captain Pregzt, as reported by his faithful companion Elishah Smith, known amongst his fraternity by the awful name of Capt’n Elie Hell.
Transcribed from the log found aboard the wreck of the frigate Astarte by H. Hartwood.
“By all the devils!” roared Pregzt, glaring at William, the judge. “Curse it, Will, it would take much more than every cannon in the blasted Navy to make me change my mind! You’re the greatest blackguard that ever joined our fraternity. Am I not Pregzt, captain of the Astarte and bloodiest villain in all the seven seas?
Bloody Ezech, they call me. And you think I’ll tell you where I hid my treasure?”
The tribunal of the corsair’s fraternity murmured at this. Pregzt was indeed all he claimed. The judge, One-eyed William, slammed his fist on the table and silence was restored. “Shut your mouth, Pregzt.
You didn’t pay the Fraternity its rightful share, and that means only one thing: you’ll hang by the neck from a yard-arm, you scurvy cur.
Here’s the rope, twisted by Satan himself!” “You threaten me, Will? Many a man better than yourself has lived to regret holding a cutlass in my face. You’ll be begging for mercy, mark my words!”
That shook One-eyed William and no mistake. Danny waved his hook in the air and shouted, “Pregzt always was a loud-mouth! The law says we hang him!” The jurors took up the cry, “Hang him!”
It was Pregzt’s turn to slam his fist on the table. He threw back his head and roared with laughter. “You fools. You want to kill what will never die? Try it!” Once more, the assembled corsairs murmured. There was unease in the air. They remembered what happened to Chuck the Gizzard-Slitter, the man who opened his mouth once too often…
It was night and a bitter wind whipped the New England coast. Snug inside the Dead Horse Inn, one of the Astarte’s men was talking. His name was Chuck and his subject was black magic. He told stories of human sacrifices, voodoo rites and zombies.
He told a tale of a time when their luck was down and they were holed up in a Florida swamp. Pregzt went missing. When he returned, he shouted “’Tis the Devil that guides us now, me hearties!”
Whether that was true or not, the Astarte began taking loot after juicy loot. The favourite song of the Astarte’s men, “Crash the bones”, was replaced by a new one:
“A skull! Go to port Saber! To starboard! Pass over that will And with death you’ll deal. If you cut a rope, Cut the right I hope, Or then, I don’t mind The death you will find.”
The next day, as you may have guessed, Chuck’s body was found with a dagger plunged between his shoulder blades. Chuck’s face was fixed in a ghastly grin… Molten lead had been poured down his throat.
Whatever way things happened next, and I don’t have the details, Pregzt was with us again and we set sail for Florida. We anchored the frigate not far from New Orleans.
Taking a few trusted companions with him, Pregzt set off into the swamp. They carried large wooden chests with them. Two days later, we heard shots being fired and screams. Pregzt arrived soon after that and claimed they’d been attacked by alligators. He alone managed to escape with his life.
He went on to say that the time had come to share out the spoils of our many loots. I was given command of the Astarte, while Pregzt handed three chests over to the crew; the chests were full of gold and precious gemstones. The rum flowed that night and the stars shone bright.
All at once I noticed a tall man dressed in black. Pregzt introduced him to me: “Here’s a hearty mate! You can call him Keith. Many a tale he could tell!” Pregzt laughed loudly and held up a roll of parchment… “And his hide-out; none-better!”
The parchment fell to the ground, partly unrolling. I noticed what seemed to be a map of underground tunnels, a veritable maze of caverns. Pregzt continued, “I’m giving up the pirate’s life. The Astarte’s in your hands now, my lad. She’s a fine ship and my reputation goes with her. Should any man call me coward, then break his head for me.
I’m leaving you only because I’ve found a treasure more precious than the purest of gold! Har har har!”
Keith spoke to him then, “It is midnight. They are ready and we must go.” The stranger turned his cold eyes on me and said in a soft, chilling voice, “Sometimes Pregzt talks too much. Forget what he just said, and maybe you’ll live!”
The fellow’s words froze the marrow in my bones and it was all I could do to mumble “I’ll not breathe a word”. The canoe slid away into the night. Their torches disappeared in the distance of the swamp. My snoring companions didn’t hear the insidious rhythm of far-off drums.”